Best known as a co-founding member and co-primary songwriter of renowned indie dance pop/indie funk act and JOVM mainstay Rubblebucket, Alex Toth’s side project, Alexander F, which features Steve Marion, Dandy McDowell. Christian Peslak and Noah Rubin as part of the project’s touring band, along with contributions from Kimbra is a decided change in sonic direction for him. Reeling emotionally after the suicides of a couple of musician friends and struggling with living as recovering alcoholic, Toth went to an eleven day, Buddhist, silent meditation retreat in Quebec. And as the story goes, during the retreat, a handful of Buddhist-themed experimental punk songs exploded in Toth’s head — and as a jazz-trained musician, it was a rather unexpected revelation. Now, if you had been frequenting this site towards the end of last year, you may recall that I wrote about “Swimmers,” off Alexander F’s self-titled debut, and from that single Toth and company revealed that his newest project would specialize in infectiously anthemic, frenetic and stompingly boisterous, pop-leaning take on punk rock — while in the case of that particular single, a mischievous take on the concept of prenatal memory in which the song’s narrator imagines how it must have been to be sperm swimming towards an egg to fertilize it.
The self-titled album’s third and latest single “Call Me Pretty” is a decidedly off-kilter yet rousingly anthemic track featuring guest vocals from Kimbra that sonically seems to owe a debt to New Wave and punk rock, with a neurotic and frenetic energy at its core — and in some way, to my ears at least, the song seems like what I’d imagine if Talking Heads randomly decided to cover A Flock of Seagulls. (In the alternative facts universe, indeed, right?) Lyrically, the song evokes the cripplingly neurotic self-doubt, shame and confusion of the song’s narrator, who despite his every effort, has begun to realize that he can’t run from himself — or his own foolish mistakes. And in someway his only hope is that his friends and lovers will ignore him and his perceived ugliness and unworthiness by “shutting their eyes and calling him pretty.”